How Data Quality APIs Extend the Life of Your Contact Data

Effectively used, accurate data can help to prevent fraud, lost shipments and returned mail; power business intelligence and analytics; or help you generate custom mashups, maps, shapes and firmographics that empower new products. But the unfortunate reality is that the data you depend on to help your organization thrive is always in flux.

This concept is particularly applicable to contact data. Customers change addresses, names, phone numbers, emails, jobs and status all the time – on purpose, and seemingly unpredictably. They retire, die, get married or divorced, affecting the validity and value of contact details. As stored data becomes stale and out-of-date, its usefulness becomes nil.

The most pressing question becomes this: how quickly does contact data go bad? In science, the term ‘half-life’ is descriptive of the time it takes for half of a body of entities to decay. Knowing the half-life of contact data would be instrumental in predicting its quality and understanding the importance of maintaining it. Fortunately, we think we’ve found a suitable answer to that question.

Viewing individual contacts and contact data elements as a greater entity – like the U.S. Census Bureau database – gives us the opportunity to apply the probability law of large numbers. By tracking the annual changes in contact information through statistics from the U.S. Census, we can then establish the actual half-life of this contact element, and determine a conservative expiration date for contact data.

Plugging Census data into the half-life formula reveals that the average half-life of contact data is 45.4 months, or 3 years and 9 months. The formula and our conclusions are below:

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, we have a population of 316 million in the U.S.

Marriages = 2.3 million
Divorces = 1.2 million
Births = 4.3 million
Deaths = 2.5 million
Moves = 47 million

Total Changes = 57.3 million per year
Total Changes = 4.8 million per month

If we bring the half-life formula in:

t1/2 = (t ln 1/2)/(ln mf / mi)
t1/2 = ln (1/2)/ln((316-4.8)/316) = 45.4 months

Therefore, after 3 years and 9 months, one-half of the records in a customer’s database are incorrect.

This simple exercise doesn’t include other major factors that cause data to be invalid, including (but not limited to) duplicates, entry errors, job changes or outdated email addresses or phone numbers. You see the point…

Now let’s get back to why this even matters. First and foremost, poor data quality affects your bottom line. It can put up to 12% of your revenue in jeopardy and stalls labor productivity by as much as 20% if left untreated. According to Gartner, bad customer data actually costs U.S. businesses in excess of $600 billion per year. Gartner also cited bad data as a fundamental driver of failure - holding it responsible for 40% of business initiatives that went nowhere.

On the contrary, quality data can help position your organization for growth, but at the very least it addresses these looming problems that we’ve now proven for certain get worse over time. Awareness of your data’s half-life should come with this essential take away: Utilizing regularly updated, authoritative reference data is critical to effectively mitigating contact decay.

The foremost goal for yourself and your customers should be achieving the highest quality data at the most affordable price. The “1-10-100 Rule” postulates that it takes $1 to verify the accuracy of a customer record at point-of entry, $10 to clean it in batch form, and $100 per record if nothing is done at all. This includes the costs associated with undeliverable shipments, low customer retention and unsuccessful sales and marketing initiatives. The bottom line? It costs organizations more to not have a “verify and cleanse” solution in place for validating contact data.

With that in mind, let’s examine some industry-leading, flexible Web APIs that help you achieve contact data quality in real-time. These APIs also come with the ease of doing batch processing as necessary to keep data accurate.

  • Personator (USA/CAN) – unique, all-in-one verification and enrichment API that scrubs and verifies U.S and Canadian contact data, updates the movers and corroborates that the supplied contact data points (name, address, phone, email) all belong together. Leverages USPS CASS/DPV and Canada Post SERP Certified logic for address validation.
  • Global Email – verifies email deliverability in real-time and returns WHOIS domain information.
  • Global Business – returns detailed firmographic data on 25+ million U.S. companies including contact title, address, phone and email by supplying an input Business name, Stock Ticker or Business Address. Also new to the service is the verification of millions of U.K. businesses with Canada, and Germany on the way.
  • Global Name – uses intelligent recognition to identify 650,000+ ethnically-diverse first and last names. Validates and parses the names of people and businesses and detects fake or suspicious names and prevents them from entering the database.
  • Global Phone – takes in an input phone number, then uses real-time switch level technology to verify the phone as active, output Caller ID info, as well as identify line type, and returns geographic details, dominant language and carrier for over 200 countries.
  • Global Address – takes global addresses from 240+ countries and territories in one line or multiple lines, then corrects, verifies and standardizes the submitted address in country specific mailing format.
  • Global IP – takes in an IP address and returns its location utilizing 20+ unique dynamic techniques to accurately geolocate 99% of global IPv4 addresses, while also identifying TOR endpoints and proxies.
  • Property (USA) – returns comprehensive property and mortgage information on over 140 million U.S. properties including parcel information, owner, calculated value, sales history and building and parcel information.

I encourage you to play around with the aforementioned APIs. Melissa’s Developer Portal allows you to do so for free! By activating 1,000 free credits, you can experience the APIs for yourself and unleash your creativity by combining the output of several APIs with your own data.

For more information, call 1-800-MELISSA or visit


Be sure to read the next Contacts article: DocuSign Introduces Organization Admin API